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In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, young Meg Murray must save her brother, Charles Wallace, from IT, a huge, menacing thing in the form of a human brain. Soon after arriving on the planet Camazotz, a rigid, formulaic place where everyone seems to be living in fear, Charles Wallace falls prey to the brainwashing of IT, becoming insolent, spiteful, and slightly sadistic. Meg finds Charles paralyzed under IT’s pulsing “heartbeat”, and as Charles begins to hurl words of discouragement at her, she suddenly realizes the one thing she has that IT does not: Love. Ultimately, it is her love that saves Charles Wallace from IT, and that reunites them both with their father and with the book’s three other protagonists, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which.
A bit fantastical, I know, but to me, not too far from reality. I believe we all have little ITs inside of us, threatening to lure us into submission at any moment. The oversized human brain in L’Engle’s story is simply a metaphor for the normal-sized one in your head and mine. Much like the all-controlling IT, and its insistent pulse, our brains are excellent at keeping up what has allowed us to survive over millions of years: efficiency, fear, and unremarkability.
I heard in a podcast not too long ago (think it was Joe Rogan’s) that we evolved to not stand out, because doing so would make us more susceptible to prey, thus killing off our chances for procreation. (You see examples of this in bugs that evolved to look like sticks or leaves, and a moth whose color matches the tree trunk it’s resting on.) To put it simply, biology would have us be completely faded into the background.
Unfortunately, the “default setting” that biology has preferred is not what’s going to allow us to thrive. Survival is attained through fitting in, and that is just perfect for creating a species. But what’s required for survival is the exact opposite of what is required to thrive. To thrive, we need to throw all that stuff out the window, because we’re not being pursued by predators anymore. At least, not the kind with sharp teeth who want to eat us for dinner.
The predators that we are faced with are of a different kind, and perhaps one of the most important ones is Stagnation. Stagnation, though, is actually not a predator to the Lizard Brain (the part of our brain that wants us to survive and not thrive), because the Lizard Brain doesn’t care if we stagnate. (Seth Godin has a lot to say about the Lizard Brain in The Icarus Deception.) But to what Robert Kiyosaki in Rich Dad Poor Dad calls the “human spirit”, Stagnation is perhaps the biggest predator of all.
We can take a lesson from Meg Murray. It may be a little too much to say that Love is the answer, but it’s sure apparent that if the “human spirit” has anything that the Lizard Brain does not, it’s Love. That’s because Love has nothing to do with survival. You don’t need Love to survive, you just need to not call attention to yourself – or be a faster runner than the thing that wants to eat you for dinner. But to thrive, to have an extraordinary life, or even just a good life, something else is required. Something loud, out in the open, and hard to miss. Or maybe it’s subtle.
Either way, it’s bigger than fitting in. And, much like standing out would in the jungle, not doing it will kill you in the long run.